By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator
Michelle Duggar is the matriarch of the popular conservative Christian homeschooling family featured on The Learning Channel’s 19 Kids and Counting. Several months ago, she made a robocall to citizens of Fayetteville, Arkansas urging them to vote against a bill that would grant transgender women access to public accommodations for cisgender women (such as restrooms and changing areas). Duggar insinuated that “men,” particularly “males with past child predator convictions,” would use this bill’s passage to perpetuate child sexual abuse.
In August, HARO board member Shaney Lee pointed out the hypocrisy in Michelle Duggar’s supposed concern for child abuse victims:
“To put it bluntly, Michelle Duggar is a hypocrite. She supposedly cares about keeping women and children safe from sexual predators, yet her family continues to be associated with a known sexual predator: Bill Gothard. The Duggars have long been huge supporters of Bill Gothard and his ministry, Institute of Basic Life Principles… Bill Gothard resigned from IBLP and all its affiliates back in March of this year when over 30 women accused him of sexual harassment….In the face of overwhelming evidence showing Gothard to be a sexual predator, the Duggars have said nothing. In fact, they continue to profit from promoting ATI and IBLP…In addition to showing a lack of personal integrity, Michelle’s call reinforces that common misconception that sexual predators are strangers. This is simply not the case–particularly when it comes to children…[This misconception] allows people like Bill Gothard to get away with their abuse. Michelle Duggar is more than willing to throw trans* people, who are no more likely to be sexual predators than anyone else, under the bus, while refusing to do the uncomfortable work of publicly denouncing a known predator whom she has supported and promoted for years.”
In light of Michelle Duggar’s robocoll, a petition was started back in August calling on The Learning Channel to end the Duggars’ show 19 Kids and Counting. As of November 19, the petition only had 9,000 signatures. But overnight, due to media coverage likely caused by the Duggars’ Facebook “kissing challenge” and its resulting controversy (they allegedly deleted pictures of same-sex couples participating in the challenge), the petition today has over 100,000 signatures.
Suddenly everyone took note. Conservative and Christian websites have fired back with their own coverage and petitions. The Daily Signal declared that, “Some People Want the Duggars’ Show Cancelled Because They Oppose Men Using Women’s Bathrooms.” “Defend the Duggars as they come under attack!”, beseeched Life Site News (LSN). LSN created a counter-petition which — as of 3:15 West Coast time on Thursday — has almost 20,000 signatures. Here is part of LSN’s petition text:
“In the past few days, liberal extremists have launched a full-scale attack on the Duggars, demanding that The Learning Channel cancel the Duggars’ popular reality TV show… We need to launch a counter-attack, letting TLC know that the American people stand by the Duggars and their defense of traditional family values. Rather than being extreme, the Duggars represent the majority of people in state after state who have stood up for the traditional family.”
Actually, Life Site News: no, the Duggars do not defend family values nor do they represent the majority of people. The Duggars are in fact extremists and have explicitly defended extremists who tarnish the name of both conservatism and Christianity.
Conservatives should be just as vocal in opposing the Duggars as liberals. Here are 4 reasons why:
1. The Duggars promote immodesty.
This might seem an odd claim, considering that the Duggars are long-time advocates of wearing “modest” clothing. However, the Christian concept of modesty comes from the Greek word κόσμιος, which refers not to what a person wears but rather an inward state: a state that eschews materialism in favor of making the world a more just, compassionate place. This is why the Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 2:9-10 does not suggest replacing “elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes” with “denim jumpers” but rather “with good deeds.” Yet the Duggars have transformed their family into nothing less than the Truman Show. Jim Bob and Michelle have robbed their children of their childhoods, thrust them into the spotlight, and made their own parental narcissism into a brand name. As Christ and Pop Culture observed in their incisive comparison between Lena Dunham and Jill Duggar, “While we watch from our respective corners, cheering or jeering as the case may be, each woman sacrifices her sense of self and the freedom to grow up in private on the altars of ideology and politics and commerce.”
This is not conservative. This is not Christian. These are not family values. The Duggars’ show promotes immodesty in its truest, darkest form.
2. The Duggars promote a dangerous relationship model.
Much has been made of the Duggars’ “courtship rules”. These rules include never being alone with your potential marriage partner prior to marriage. They also include the promise from Michelle Duggar that, “There is no failed courtship.” Oh, if only that were so. As someone who grew up in the conservative Christian homeschool world, I have seen so many courtships fall apart. They have hidden sexual assault. They have promoted shame, caused pride, and created skewed views of relationships which lead to dysfunction. They have created broken, bitter families. In fact, courtship can lead to more heartache than dating. Since courtship is basically two families dating each other (instead of two individuals), break-ups mean not only two individuals get hurt, but entire families get hurt. It can be devastating. I know — I’ve seen it first-hand.
And most disconcertingly, the relationship ideas of the Duggars directly groom women for sexual abuse. As homeschool alum Lana Hope has pointed out,
“The news media has finally connected Doug Phillips of Vision Forum, who sexually assaulted a young woman for a period of a few years, to the Duggar family. It’s not that the Duggars have sexually assaulted anyone.
But they are following the very teaching of courtship and stay at home daughters that allows women to be vulnerable to an abuser. The control they put their daughters under is quite frankly terrifying.”
Conservatives and Christians should be joining with liberals in speaking out against any relationship model that promotes shame, pride, and dysfunctional relationships. In fact, as the self-proclaimed standard-bearers of family values, conservatives and Christians should be speaking out louder than any other groups on this matter.
3. The Duggars have promoted, and continue to promote, spiritually and sexually abusive teachers.
As mentioned before, the Duggars are long-time advocates of Bill Gothard and IBLP, his cult-like ministry that has left immense damage in its wake.
Let’s review the facts: Bill Gothard and his Institute in Basic Life Principles have been (1) covering up sexual abuse since the 1980′s, (2) accused by over 30 women in the last few years (since 2012) of continuing to cover-up sexual harassment and abuse, and (3) promoting horribly abusive teachings regarding counseling survivors of abuse, Despite this, the Duggars continue to promote IBLP. Not once have they denounced Gothard’s actions or teachings. In fact, just earlier this year, Jim Bob and Michelle continued to be IBLP conference speakers.
And Gothard is just the beginning. The Duggars have also directly promoted Doug Phillips of Vision Forum, a racism-tinged ministry that engaged in the theft of another Christian’s private property. Earlier this year, as documented by a very-not-liberal news site, WorldNewsDaily, Phillips was accused of using his nanny as a “sex object.” Phillips and his teachings have ruined the lives of numerous conservative Christian families. Furthermore, his advocacy of an extreme form of patriarchy directly sets up young women for abuse, especially sexual abuse. In The Cry of Tamar: Violence Against Women and the Church’s Response, Pamela Cooper-White explains that, “Patriarchy sets the stage in general for more abuse of girls and women of every kind at the hands of men, and conditions men to view women as objects for their gratification rather than fellow human beings worthy of empathy and care.”
This is seen clearly in conservative Christian subcultures. Homeschooling mom Julie Anne Smith has observed how patriarchy is “setting up…young ladies for abuse”. And homeschool alum Sarah Jones concurs, explaining that, “The Christian patriarchy movement grooms young women for abuse, consciously or not, by brainwashing them into compliance and encouraging them to forgo developing skills necessary for independent lives.”
Like with Gothard, the Duggars have made no efforts to denounce Phillips.
4. The Duggars threaten homeschool freedoms.
If not for simple morality alone, conservatives and Christians have every incentive to call out the Duggars’ promotion of people like Bill Gothard and Doug Phillips. The fact is, the actions and teachings of Gothard and Phillips directly threaten homeschool freedoms. HSLDA’s Michael Farris himself declared this earlier this year when he called out — by name — the Duggars’ idols, Gothard and Phillips. Farris stated that “families, children, women, and even fathers…have been harmed” by the legalism and patriarchy of these individuals and their ministries. If conservatives and Christians did not start speaking out against this, Farris had a dire warning:
“Their teachings continue to threaten the freedom and integrity of the homeschooling movement…If public policy makers believe that the homeschooling movement promotes teachers and teaching that have a strong likelihood of damaging people—particularly children and women—then our freedom will suffer. Treating children well and treating women well is intrinsically the right thing to do. But it is also the necessary thing to do if we wish to preserve our liberty.”
In short, if Life Site News and the Daily Signal truly want to defend conservative, Christian family values, the very last people they should be defending are the Duggars. They should be joining with these “liberal extremists” and asking The Learning Channel to cancel 19 Kids and Counting — albeit perhaps for different reasons. If there is anything conservatives, liberals, Christians, and non-Christians should be able to unite around, it is fighting child abuse and promoting healthy families.
Defending the Duggars, unfortunately, does the opposite.